Seven ranches across the nation were recently honored as outstanding stewards of the land in the annual Environmental Stewardship Awards Program (ESAP). In the next week, we will feature one of these ranches each day.

ESAP is in its 25th year and the 25th national winner will be selected from among these cattle producers and announced in early February 2016 at the annual convention of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in San Diego.

Most, if not all, of  the ranches named ESAP winners in the past quarter century are multi-generational and have long-standing records of operation, showing the connection between stewardship and ranch profitability.

ESAP is administered by the National Cattlemen’s Foundation and is funded by Dow AgroSciences, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Tyson Foods and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Here is a “tour” of one of those ranches and some of the traits the judges thought made it so outstanding.

Four Sixes Ranch, Guthrie, Texas

Ann Marion, owner, and Joe Leathers, general manager, operate this historic ranch in the western rolling plains of  Texas.

The Four Sixes Ranch was established in 1868 and comprises 370,000 acres in two deeded ranches. It is generally known for cattle and Quarter Horses.

Here are some of the practices the judges mentioned:

• Removal of invasive mesquite and cedar restored the ranch to 1870s condition.

• The brush control also improved carrying capacity by about 50 percent.

• Fully stocked, the ranch carries 7,000 to 8,000 cows.

• Cattle were moved off the ranch in the 2011-2014 drought to preserve the landscape, genetics and labor force.

• The 370,000 acres of rangeland are divided into 100 pastures, continuously stocked.

• Management units vary from a few hundred acres to 16,000 acres.

• About 5,000 acres, divided into 14 pastures, support horse production.

• The ranch accepts no cost-share funds and derives no hunting income, but the ranch cooperated with a Texas Tech University program to improve quail habitat.

• Quail survival has improved by as much as 40 percent.